The March to Madness gets one step closer. Gonzaga drew blood first, literally and figuratively, and the Portland Pilots never recovered. The Zags picked up right where they left off in their last game against the Pilots, picking apart their defense with superb ball movement and strong finishing at the rim.
Eric McClellan and Domantas Sabonis provided most of the scoring, but it was Josh Perkins' passing early in the game that served as the catalyst for the offense. The first half was played with a nice crisp pace, and the fact that the game's first turnover didn't come until the close to the 10-minute mark allowed GU to find a nice rhythm on both sides of the ball.
The last time these two teams played, Sabonis scored 17 points, which is about his season average. Domantas matched that output in this game's first 16 1/2 minutes as the big Lithuanian dominated Portland inside and out en route to 24 points. Yes, out as in outside, because when you leave him open at the top of the 3, you better get ready for a Sabonis Splash...err, Splashes.
Portland's backcourt duo of Alec Wintering and Bryce Pressley struggled immensely in the first half, as they were hold to only 6 points in the first 20 minutes on combined 2-12 shooting. The duo started to make a greater impact in the game in the second half, but by then Portland was in a hole that the Zags wouldn't let them out of.
With the exception of a few minutes midway through the second half when focus was a little questionable, the Zags played a nearly flawless game. While this team hasn't really established a pattern of one good game carrying over into the next this season, it certainly doesn't hurt to feed the confidence levels going into the semifinal against BYU.
Let's get the next one, boys!
- It was great to see Przemek traveling with the team and sitting on the bench again.
- Mark Few called out E-Mac in the last HBO episode for falling in love with the three-pointer, but if he's shooting like he did tonight you have to let him keep shooting...right?!?! Granted, McClellan was getting to the rim early and often, earning himself some easy buckets and several trips to the free throw line (5-5), which created more space for him on the perimeter later in the game.
- Surprisingly poor game from Portland's Alec Wintering. The Junior guard picked up more fouls (3) than points (2) in the first half.
- Domas showcased his entire toolbox of skills, displaying a bevy of post moves, adept passing, elite rebounding, and ability to shoot from range. His game is NBA-ready. Let's enjoy him for as long as we can.
- Only 5 turnovers. More of that, please!
- I'll forgive Dranginis for fouling a 3pt shooter because the man was everywhere in this game. It was a rare sight to see a ball carom off the rim without also seeing Dranginis hurtling himself after said ball with reckless abandon.
- Hopefully Ryan Edwards' knee injury isn't too serious. The Zags are ill-equipped to absorb an injury to anyone in the rotation, even to a guy only playing 9 minutes per game.
- Don't be fooled by the scorelines, BYU and the team from Moraga got all they could handle in their quarterfinal matchups. It was nice to see the Zags come out and handle business right from the tip.
- I liked seeing the quick touch passes from the wing to the corner 3. That's how you create easier opportunities to score.